9 Dec 2008

Ban lifted on NZ tomatoes, capsicums

3:07 pm on 9 December 2008

New Zealand tomatoes and capsicums will be allowed back into the Australian market under a temporary arrangement that includes conditions described as strict and costly.

Australia banned the trade in June, when Biosecurity New Zealand announced the discovery of a bacterium in three Auckland greenhouses.

The bacterium causes abnormalities in tomato and capsicum crops and is believed to be passed on by the psyllid insect.

Horticulture New Zealand business manager Ken Robertson said growers will have to meet strict and costly conditions set by Australia to allow exports to resume.

There must be mandatory fumigation with methyl bromide, an Australian inspector has to clear the shipments before they leave New Zealand, and the produce must be sourced from registered growers and packhouses.

Tomato growers' representative Tony Ivicevich says although the requirements imposed by Australia are very tough, growers will put up with them to get their fruit into that market.

Mr Ivicevich hopes the resumption of exports will bring some relief from low prices caused by a glut of fruit on the local market.

Horticulture New Zealand will hold talks with Australian authorities at the beginning of next year, to discuss what permanent measures will be needed to keep the market open to New Zealand tomatoes and capsicums.